Time of Our Singing

Powers, Richard. The Time of Our Singing. Picador, 2004.

Reason read: Richard Powers was born in the month of June. Read in his honor.

Writing a review for this book was difficult considering our current national climate. Is it fair to bring a child into this world, knowing full well his or her life will be an uphill, hurtful, and potentially lethal journey? With Roe V. Wade being overturned, this is a burning question for me. In The Time of Our Singing it is 1939 and David Strom, a German Jewish white man meets and falls in love with an African American young lady from Philadelphia. Should they have an interfaith relationship? Could they succeed in a biracial marriage? What hardships would their children have in a world consumed with the hate and segregation and World War II? Is it blind faith to assume their offspring will thrive beyond race with the help of music? So many questions that kept me reading all 600+ pages to the very end. Time of Our Singing also tells the story of David and Delia’s children. Jonah, Joseph, and Ruth come of age during the early Civil Rights movement and the turmoil of racial unrest follows them through adulthood. Jonah and Joseph go the route of music and fame, while Ruth veers violently in the opposite direction. Over time, they cannot ignore their color or where they came from. Through music comes recognition and redemption.
What I liked the most was the clever writing in that there are hints of a disaster: a photograph that has escaped being burned. What a black boy from Chicago doesn’t know about deep south segregation. How hatred can burn like an inferno until it explodes in disaster.

Lines I liked, “Music was there lease, their deed, their eminent domain” (p 9), “She beat at the recipe with a force her daughter couldn’t fail to read” (p 131), “Death mixes all races” (p 145), “The puppet refused to sit up and speak” (p 495), and “Race’s worst injuries are color-blind” (p 553).

Author fact: Pearl really likes Richard Powers. He has his own chapter in Book Lust. For the Challenge I am reading five more books by Powers and I have already read Gain and Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance. Due to their length, I don’t think I finished either one.

Book trivia: Time of Our Singing is a hefty 600+ pages.

Playlist: Musicians: Andre Watts, Bach, Brahms, Cole Porter, Cherubini, Charlie Parker, Camilla Williams, Duke Ellington, Dvorak, Dorothy Maynor, Dizzy Gillespie, Debussy, David Strom, Delia, Doors, Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Ginger Kiltie, Hayden, Holst, Ice Cube, Josquin Absalom, Jules Bledsoe, Jim Morrison, Leontyne Price, Marian Anderson, Mimi, Mendelsohn, Mozart, Miles Davis, Pucci, Paula Squires, Phillipa Duke Schuyler, Robert McFerrin, the Supremes, Schubert, Tallis, and Wreckin’ Cru
Songs: “Alto Rhapsody”, “America”, “Asleep in the Deep”, “Auf Ewigkeit”, “Ave Maria”, “Ave verum corpus”, “Balm in Gilead”, “The Boy’s Magic Horn”, “By the Waters of Babylon”, “Come Again, Sweet Love Doth Now Invite”, “California Girls”, “Deceit Holds the World in Its Domain”, “Dance of the Seven Veils”, “Down by the Salley Gardens”, “Elija”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Floral Bandit”, “From the New World”, “German Dance #1”, “Go Down Moses”, “Good Vibrations”, “Gospel Train”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “I Hear a Symphony”, “I’m a Believer”, “Ladonna e mobile”, “Lord God of Abraham”, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, “Marching to Freedomland”, “Miller’s Beautiful Daughter”, “My Soul is Anchored to the Lord”, “Motherless Child”, “O Mio Fernando”, “On That Great Gettin’ Up Morning”, “Ol Man River”, “Prelude to a Kiss”, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, “Se La Face Ay Pale”, “Satin Doll”, “Swanee River”, “Star Spangled Banner”, “Saint Matthew Passion”, “Sussestille”, “There’s a Rainbow Round My Shoulder”, “Time Stands Still”, “Trampin'”, “Trout”, “Turkey in the Straw”, “Werther”, “We Can Work It Out”, and “You Are My Sunshine”

Nancy said: Pearl dedicated a whole chapter to Powers so she had a lot to say about the author. Not so much about The Time of Our Singing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Richard Powers: Too Good To Miss” (p 191).


Edson

Morrissey, Bill. Edson. Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Reason read: June is the month a lot of small towns celebrate different things. Just yesterday Kisa and I went to an asparagus festival.

While I was reading Edson I had the sense that the town and the story of the main character were partly autobiographical in nature. Center stage is Edson, a small New Hampshire town with a cast of quirky characters. Most intriguing is former singer/songwriter Henry Corvine. Recently returned after a divorce and a disastrous stint on a fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska, Henry didn’t want the divorce and he couldn’t maintain even the smallest passion for the ocean. Acting as his refuge, Edson is where Henry returns to start over. Doing just what, he doesn’t know. The tiny town of Edson is brimming with other characters, including Caroline, a young waitress with her eye on bigger and better things and Pope Johnson, a singer who has stolen Henry’s former Edson life, right down to the songs Henry wrote and used to perform on a nightly basis. Resigned to the fact time has erased the true creator of the lyrics (think Dave Matthews singing “All Along the Watchtower”), Henry lets Pope take his former spotlight while Henry meanders from one job possibility to another. He may be lost in Edson, but it’s still the place to which he keeps coming back.
As an aside, the Edson mill closing down in the dead of night was exactly like Josh Ritter’s “Henrietta, Indiana” song. There are probably hundreds of stories about factories shuttering their doors without warning and putting thousands out of work.

As another aside, there is lot of smoking and drinking in Edson.

Author fact: Bill Morrissey is a real life singer-songwriter. I had a chance to listen to some of his performances on the internet. I would definitely go to a bar to hang out to enjoy his music.

Book trivia: this should be a movie. Josh Ritter could play the lead.

Playlist: Mississippi John Hurt, Joni Mitchell, Grace Paley, Johnny Hodges, the fictional Tyler Beckett, Righteous Brothers (“Unchained Melody”), Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly,

Nancy said: Pearl explains some of the plot.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Small-Town Life” (p 203).


Positively 4th Street

Hajdu, David. Positively 4th Street: the Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina, and Richard Farina. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

Reason read: May is music month. This is a proper book about music.

All it takes is one moment to allow your greatness to shine. Quarterback Tom Brady knows that without Drew Bledsoe getting hurt he wouldn’t have had the chance to prove himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks of NFL history. The band Imagine Dragons knows that without the lead singer from Train getting sick they wouldn’t have played the festival that changed their lives practically overnight. Joan Baez discovered that when she took part of someone else’s time to perform at the Newport Folk Festival she was given the opportunity of a lifetime. I enjoy a biography when the world of another human opens up to me and I discover that I probably would have liked them as an everyday person. When Joan Baez was quoted as saying she was afraid to take music lessons because she thought she would discover that she wasn’t all that good I liked her a little more. She had a sense of humor and wit to boot. But Positively 4th Street is not just about Joan Baez. Hadju takes us into the world of her sister, Mimi, and the influential men in their lives, Bob Dylan and Richard Farina. I have to admit, I knew next to nothing about Mimi and Dick before this book. Now I feel I have some catching up to do (musically). I think it’s incredibly tragic that Farina died on the same day his only book was published and his wife celebrated her 21st birthday.

As an aside, Joan was referred to as the Virgin Mary of music. This made me think of Natalie Merchant and how she was referred to as the Emily Dickinson of music. Why do men have to come up with these strange labels for women artists?

Author fact: Hajdu wrote a bunch of books around the topic of music. I am not reading anything but Positively 4th Street for the book Challenge.

Book trivia: Positively 4th Street includes two sections of black and white photographs.

There is an insane amount of music mentioned in Positively 4th Street. Hang on to your hats!
Playlist (musicians): Alan Lomax, Almanac Singers, Animals, Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys, Beatles, Bobby Rydell, Bessie Jones, Burl Ives, Blind Boys of Alabama, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, Brownie McGhee, Burt Bacharach, Chuck Berry, Clarence Ashley, Carolyn Hester, Conway Twitty, Charles River Valley Boys, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Carl Perkins, Cole Porter, Chambers Brothers, Doris Day, Duke Ellington, Doc Watson, Everly Brothers, Eddy Arnold, Elvis Presley, Eric von Schmidt, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Valli, Frankie Avalon, Greenbriar Boys, George Wein, Hank Williams, Harry Belafonte, Horace Sprott, Hawks, James Field, Jimmy Reid, Joan Baez, John Cooke, John Sebastian, John Lee Hooker, Judy Collins, Josh White, Jean Ritchie, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon, Kingston Trio, Kate Smith, Lead Belly, Lionel Hampton, Leonard Bernstein, Lesley Gore, Lotte Lenya, Little Richard, Levon Helm, Marianne Faithfull, Mel Torme, Mance Lipscomb, Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson, Mississippi John Hurt, Nat Cole, New Lost City Ramblers, Odetta, Oscar Brand, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Peter, Paul and Mary, Paul Simon, Pete Seeger, Peter Yarrow, Ricky Nelson, Robert Gray, Rudy Vallee, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Sleepy John Estes, Staple Singers, Sonny Terry, Teddy Wilson, Theodore Bikel, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Tom Rush, Van Morrison, the Weavers, Woody Guthrie,

Playlist (songs):
A
“All the World Has Gone By”, “Always Something There To Remind Me”, “A Swallow Song”, “Amazing Grace”, “Annie Had a Baby”, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, “Another Country”, “All I Really Want to Do”, “All My Trials”,
B
“Blue Suede Shoes”, “Ballad of Donald White”, “Black is the Color”, “Ballad of Peter Amberley”, “Bob Dylan’s Dream”, “Boots of Spanish Leather”, “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”, “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Birmingham Sunday”, “Bye, Bye Love”, “Ballad in Plain D”, “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”, “Bringing it All Back Home”, “Brown-Eyed Gril”, “Ballad of a Thin Man”,
C
“Car, Car”, “Cumberland Gap”, Careless Love”, “Come Back, Baby”, “Chipmunk Song”, “Cocaine”, “Celebration for a Gray Day”, “Corrina, Corrina”, “Chimes of Freedom”, “Catch the Wind”,
D
“Dopico”, “Diamonds and Rust”, “Death of Emmett Till”, “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind”, “Don’t Weep After Me”, “Drive It On”, “Down on Penny’s Farm”, Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”, “Dog Blue”, “Donna, Donna”,
E
“El Preso Numero Nueve”,
F
“Farewell to Bob Dylan”, “Falcon”, “Field Near the Cathedral at Chartres”, “Farewell”, “Freight Train Blues”, “Fare Thee Well”,
G
“Gates of Eden”, “Glory, Glory”, “Good Night, Irene”, “Girl From the North Country”, “Gospel Plow”, “Green Historical Bum”,
H
“Hard-Loving Loser”, “Homeward Bound”, “Hold On”, “Henry Martin”, “Hard Travelin'”, “House of the Rising Sun”, “Hard Times in New York”, “He Was a Friend of Mine”, “Hard-Loving Loser”, “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance”, “Hound Dog”,
I
“I am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, “If I Had a Hammer”, “I Don’t Believe You [She Acts Like We Never Have Met]”, “Island in the Sun”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “I Was Young When I Left Home”, “If You Gotta Go, Go Now”, “It’s Alright Ma”, “It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “I Came to Jesus”, “I Once Loved a Lass”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “It Aint Me Babe”,
J
“John Riley”, “Jordan River”, “Jonny’s Gone to Hi-Lo”, Judy’s Turn to Cry”, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”,
K
“Kitty”,
L
“Lay Down Your Weary Tune”, “Lord Franklin”, “La Bamba”, “Lowlands”, “London Waltz”, “Long Ago, Far Away”, “Lord Randall”, “Leaving of Liverpool”, “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, “Ludlow Massacre”, “Love is Just a Four-Letter Word”, “Like a Rolling Stone”,
M
“Miles”, “My Back Pages”, “Mixed-Up Confusion”, “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind”, “Mary Hamilton”, “Masters of War”, “Man of Constant Sorrow”, “Maggie’s Farm”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “My Little Red Book”, “Michelle”,
N
“Nottamun Town”, “No More Auction Block”,
O
“One-Way Ticket”, “Old Blue”, “Only Pawn in Their Game”, “Once I Knew a Pretty Girl”, “On the Banks of the Ohio”, “On Top of Old Smokey”, “O What a Beautiful Morning,” “Overseas Stomp”, “Only a Hobo”, “Once I Had a Sweetheart”, “Oh Boy”, “Once in Love with Lyndon”, “One Too Many Mornings”,
P
“Pastures of Plenty”, “Pack Up Your Sorrows”, “Poor Boy Blues”, “Pal of Mine”, “Patriot Game”, “Poor Miner’s Lament”, “Puff the Magic Dragon”,
R
“Roll On Columbia”, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie”, “Rake and Rambling Boy”, “Reno Nevada”,
S
“Sweet Sir Galahad”, “Sail Away Ladies”, “Sound of Silence”, “Sally Ann”, “Scarborough Fair”, “Silver Dagger”, “So Soon in the Morning”, “Song to Woody”, “Swing and Turn Jubilee”, “Standing on the Highway”, “Surfaris’ Wipe Out”, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, “She Belongs To Me”,
T
“Talkin’ New York”, “This Life is Killing”, “This Land is Your Land”, “Talkin’ Hava Negeilah Blues”, “Tom Dooley”, “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”, “Tomorrow is a Long Time”, “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”, “Troubled and I Don’t Know Why”, “There But for Fortune”, “To Ramona”, “Turn, Turn, Turn”,
V
“Virgin Mary Has One Son”, “V.D. Blues”,
W
“Wild Mountain Thyme”, “Watermelon Man”, “What You Gonna Call Your Pretty Little Baby”, “Who Killed Davey Moore”, “Wimoweh”, “With God on Our Side”, “Wagoner’s Lad”, “Wild Colonial Boy”, “When the Ship Comes In”, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, “Wildwood Flower”,
Y
“Your Cheating Heart”, “Young Blood”, “You’re No Good”, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feelin'”, “Yesterday”.

Nancy said: Pearl experienced a musical trip down memory lane when she read Positively 4th Street.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The 1960s in Fact and Fiction” (p 178).


The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

Hijuelos. Oscar. The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1989.

Reason read: March is Music month.

Delve into this book if you want a cultural education in Cuba and its music. Taking place in the 1950s, two Cuban brothers emigrate to the United States with big dreams of conquering the music scene. Cesar Castillo looks back on his life, playing mambo music with his brother, Nester and having a small spotlight in the fame arena after a guest appearance on an episode of I Love Lucy. I read this book on the heels of the Netflix documentary about Desi and Lucy so it seemed as if the couple was everywhere. Confessional: I couldn’t really get into this book. The parts where Desi Arnez makes an appearance were my favorite and, as the story went on, I began to skip scenes that involved sex or Nestor pining over “Beautiful Maria.” I grew weary of the repetition. I did appreciate all the references to music of the era.

Author fact: Hijuelos was honored with the 1985 Rome Fellowship in Literature of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Book trivia: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love was made into a movie starring Antonio Banderas in 1992.

One of the best aspects of Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love is the musical education you will get. Singers, composers, pianists, violinists, and lyricists from Catalan, Dominican, Cuban, Columbian, and Puerto Rican backgrounds flood the pages of Mambo.

Playlist (because this is a book about music, there was a lot to mention.): Musicians and composers – Alberto Beltran, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, Beny More, Cesar Nestor, Desi Arnaz, Enric Madriguera, Ernesto Lecuona, Fletcher Anderson, Glorious Gloria Parker, Maurio Bauza, Mongo Santamaria, Miguelito Valdez, Manny Jimenez, Nelson Pinedo, Nat King Cole, Noro Morales, Paul Whiteman Orchestra, Olga Chorens, Ornette Coleman, Rene Touzet, Tito Rodriguez, and Vincento Valdez.
Songs: “Acercate Mas,” “Besame Mucho,” “Beautiful Maria of My Soul,” “Cielito Lindo,” “Frenesi,” “Hong Kong Mambo,” “In the Still of the Night,” “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” “Moonlight Becomes You,” “Mambo de Paree,” “Mambo Nine,” “Mambo for a Hot Night,” Mambo Number Eight,” and “Twilight in Havana.”

Nancy said: Pearl included a sentence about the plot for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called Cuba Si!” (p 68)


Commitments

Doyle, Roddy. The Commitments. Vintage Contemporaries, 1989.

Reason read: The Commitments takes place in Dublin, Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day is in March. Plus, I needed a book about music for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

Having never seen the movie of the same name, I had no idea what to expect from the book. Much the same way “The Full Monty” made me laugh out loud, so did The Commitments. It’s a fun read. A lively group of young unemployed men and women want to be a band. They want to be famous and rake in the money, but they don’t know what it takes. When they hire a manager the first thing he tells them is that they will be a soul band. The then instructs them to stretch themselves to find out what “soul” means to them: the streets? The act of getting outside one’s self? What they learn is that relationships are hard and people are complicated. Doyle takes us through the first installment of the Barrytown trilogy with humor and grit.

Quote to quote, “For a few minutes the Commitments broke up” (p 64). Aint love grand?

Author fact: Doyle has won the Booker Prize.

Book trivia: Despite The Commitments being more of a novella at 154 pages, it was made into a movie in 1991.

Playlist (and there is a lot): Animal (from the Muppets), Al Green, BB King, Big Joe Turner, the Byrds, Bruce Springsteen, Berry Gordy, BP Fallon, Blood Sweat and Tears, the Beatles, Booker T and the MGs, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Charlie Parker, the Crystals, Depeche Mode, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Eddie Floyd, Eddie and the Red Hots, Echo and the Bunnymen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Frank Sinatra, the Four Tops, George Michael, Gladys Knight, George Jones, Herbie Hancock, Human League, Isaac Hayes, John Coltrane, Joey Irish Fagan, Jackie Wilson, Jethro Tull, Joe Rex, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Led Zeppelin, Little Richard, Lamont Dozier, the Monkees, Madness, Madonna, Martha Reeves, Marvin Gaye, Microdisney, Martha and the Vandellas, Otis Redding, Phil Lynott, Peter Tosh, Percy Sledge, the Ronettes, Roxy Music, Rolling Stones, the Shangra-Las, Simple Minds, Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Steve Cropper, Sam Cooke, the Strangles, Stevie Wonder, Screaming Blue Messiahs, Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel, the Specials, Tina Turner, U2, Wilson Pickett, and Yoko Ono.
Songs: “Anything Goes,” “Bells of Rhymney,” “Chain Gang,” “Dancing in the Streets,” “Get On Up,” “Knock on Wood,” “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “I Thank You,” “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “Louise,” “The Lord is My Shepard,” “Masters and Servants,” “My Girl,” “Morning Has Broken,” “Moon River,” “Night Train,” “Out of Sight,” “Papa Got a Brand New Bag,” “Relax,” “Reach Out (I’ll Be There),” “Sex Machine,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” “Stoned Love,” “Tracks of My Tears,” “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Walking in the Rain,” and “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.”

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned the “Barrytown Trilogy” as an example of humorous Irish fiction even though she feels on the whole, fiction coming out of Ireland is sad.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Irish Fiction” (p 125).


Origins of a Song

Grogan, Jake. Origins of a Song: 202 True Inspirations Behind the World’s Greatest Lyrics. Kennebunkport, Maine: Appleseed Press, 2021.

Reason read: this was a gift from a friend who knows me all too well.

What makes a great lyric? Opinions vary. My take? A song will grab me if the artist can drop into my mind, steal my heart, and take the words right out of my mouth. Be about me. Better yet, be me. The lyrics have to say what I mean and say it better than I ever could. I want to feel as if someone has been reading my journal or listening under the bed when I talk in my sleep. Lyrics don’t have to be complicated. They just have to mean something. But Origins of a Song‘s subtitle is misleading. This book is not about the true inspirations behind great lyrics. More accurately, it’s the inspiration behind the great song itself. My current obsession (Dermot Kennedy), my longtime hero (Natalie Merchant), and one of the greatest wordsmiths of all time (Josh Ritter) are not included in this book. Everyone has an opinion and mine is this: I think some songs were included not for their brilliant lyrics, but because some songs were smash hits and very difficult to ignore. “My Girl” by Smokey Robinson, for example. What is so special about the lyrics? The tone of Ruffin’s voice, melody, and instrumentation (piano) made the song a hit, not the words.
Bonus points for Grogan: he gives credit where credit is due. If Elvis didn’t write the song (did he ever?), Grogan makes sure to tell you who did.

Author fact: According to Origins of a Song , Grogan’s favorite song “Dancing Queen” inspired him to write the book.

Book trivia: Confessional: I couldn’t find a rhyme or reason for how Origins of a Song is organized. Songs are not in alphabetical order, nor are the artists. It’s not in chronological order according to the release of the song, either.

As an aside, I was going to catalog all of the songs and musicians Grogan mentions, but since the whole point of the book is just that, I refrained.


A Seat at the Table

Raphael, Amy. A Seat at the Table. London: Virago, 2020.

Reason read: I wanted to read this when it was first published in Great Britain in 2019 because I heard the interview with Natalie Merchant was pretty interesting. I ordered it on Amazon. Two years later, it finally showed up.

You hear stories by the hundreds about women in the music industry having a difficult time “making it.” This could be said for almost every male-dominated industry but it seems music has the hardest stereotypes to break. Musicians in general are supposed to be larger than life superstars. Sex symbols. Unobtainable idols high up on that stage. This was a role for men while women demurely sang backup or tapped a tambourine against a swiveling hip. Women as lead singers, guitarists, drummers, producers, DJs, and song writers were not to be taken seriously. Amy Raphael returns with a second book of interviews, tackling these subjects and more.
As an aside, I can remember a musician friend telling me she couldn’t let the fans know she was married to her bassist because it would “ruin the fantasy” for some followers (his and hers). Gulp. Natalie Merchant was badgered during her younger years in 10,000 Maniacs to wear tighter, sexier clothes. Nowadays, she’s getting grief about letting her hair go gray.

Playlist:

  • Jessica Curry
    • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
  • Maggie Rogers
    • Alaska
    • Better
  • Emmy the Great
    • First Love
    • Virtue
    • Second Love
    • Constantly
    • Three Cities
  • Dream Wife
    • F.U.U.
    • Somebody
  • Natalie Merchant
    • Tigerlily
    • Motherland
    • Texas
    • What’s The Matter Here?
  • Lauren Mayberry
    • The Bones of What You Believe
    • Love is Dead
  • Poppy Ajudha
    • Love Falls Down
    • Spilling Into You
    • Tepid Soul
    • She is the Sum
  • Kalie Shorr (from Portland, Maine)
    • Fight Like a Girl
    • He’s Just Not into You
    • Two Hands,
  • Tracey Thorn
    • Eden
    • Missing
    • A Distant Shore
    • Walking Wounded
    • Temperamental
  • Mitski – who had the best quote, “In a way I am always in translation” (p 234).
    • Bag of Bones
    • Lush
    • Retired from Sad, New Career in Business
    • Bury Me at Makeout Creek
    • Puberty 2
    • Be the Cowboy
  • Catherine Marks
  • Georgia
    • Come
    • Georgia
  • Clara Amfo
  • Alison Moyet:
    • Winter Kills
    • Nobody’s Diary
    • Situation
    • Don’t Go
  • Hole:
    • Miss World
    • Softer Softest
  • Debbie Harry:
    • Heart of Glass
  • Christine and the Queens:
    • Girlfriend
    • iT
    • Be Freaky
  • Ibeyi:
    • Deathless
    • Ash
    • River
    • Mama Says
    • Ghosts
    • No Man is Big Enough for My Arms
  • Nadine Shah:
    • Love Your Dum
    • Fast Food
    • Stealing Cars
    • Holiday Destination
  • Kate Tempest:
    • Everybody Down
  • Other (my apologies if I missed someone):
    • 10,000 Maniacs
    • A – Anita Mui, Archie Marsh, Annie Lennox, Ani DiFranco, Anna Calri, Adele, Aztec Camera, Alanis Morrissette, Al Jarreau, Al Green, Amy Winehouse
    • B – Backstreet Boys, Blondie, Best Coast, Billy Bragg, the Beach Boys, Bjork, Bob Dylan, Britney, Belle & Sebastian, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, The Beatles, Blak Twang, BahamadĂ­a, Bikini Kill, Beck, Billy Boy Arnold, BeyoncĂ©, Buzzcocks, Brian Eno, Buju Banton, Biggie Smalls, Blur, Breeders, Beethoven, Bridget St. John, Buena Vista Social Club, Bob Marley, Bauhaus, Boomtown Rats, Britney Spears, Big Star, Bonnie Tyler
    • C – Cardi B., Connie Traverse, Carly Rae Jepson, the Cure, Cocteau Twins, the Clash, Cole Porter, Christina Aguilera, Confucius MC, Chester P., Cream, the Cranberries, Cat Stevens, CHVRCHES, Crowded House, the Carpenters
    • D – Dixie Chicks, Diane Cluck, Dr. Feelgood, D’Angelo, Depeche Mode, David Bowie, DELS, Damon Albam, Diana Ross, Daft Punk, Debbie Harry, Daniel Johnston
    • E – Elastica, Elephant Man, Ella Fitzgerald, Erykah Badu, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Edie Piaf, Everything but the Girl
    • F – Faces, Foals, the Fureys, Ferry Lawrenson, Fairport Convention, Feminist Frequency, Florence Welch, Fungazi, Faye Wong, Fiona Apple, Faith Hill, the Frames
    • G – Guns ‘N Roses, Ghostface Killah, Green Day, Gustav Holst, Gravediggaz, Genesis, Glen Hansard, Gang of Four
    • H – Harlocks, Hot Chocolate
    • I – Ian Drury
    • J – Jeff Buckley, John Bonham, Jarvis Crocker, Jack the Lad, Jah Shaka, Jack White, Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius, Joni Mitchell, Jill Scott, Jacques Brel, Joanna Newson, Jesus and Mary Chain, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Cliff, Joy Division, Joan Jett
    • K – Karen Dalton, the Killers, Karen O, Kimya Dawson, Keith Jarrett, Kate Bush, the Kinks, Kathleen Hanna, Kelly Rowland, Kanye West, Kwes, Kelela
    • L – Laura Branigan, the Lettermen, Leftfield, Lauryn Hill, Leslie Cheung, Leonard Cohen, Liam Gallagher, Led Zeppelin, Lily Allen, Le Tigre, Luther Vandross
    • M – Missy Elliot, My Bloody Valentine, M.I.A., Marine Girls, Metallica, Mary J Blige, Mo Def, Moldy Peaches, Mariah Carey, Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, Meshell Ndegocell, Madonna, Mirah, Mos Def, Melanie, Michael Stipe, Meg White, The Microphones, Marvin Gaye, Marvelettes, Massive Attack, Micachu, Martin Gore, Mozart
    • N – N.E.R.D., Nick Cave, Nirvana, Nadine Shah, Nina Simone, New Order, New Christy Minstrels, Nick Drake
    • O – Orange Juice, Organized Konfusion, Outkast
    • P – Paramour, Pussycat Dolls, the Pretenders, Peter Tosh, the Police, Paul Simon, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Platters, Pharoahe Monch, Pantera, Poly Styrene, Prince, Pharrell Williams, Patti Smith, Pixies, P!nk, Pussycat Dolls, PJ Harvey, Paul Weller, Pig Bag
    • R – Reba McEntire, Ringo Starr, Rebecca Black, Rolling Stones, Radio Head, Ryan Adams, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Robbie Williams
    • S – Slipknot, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Solange, Shania Twain, St. Vincent, Sound of Rum, Stone Roses, Spice Girls, Selena Gomez, Smashing Pumpkins, Sleepers, Skinnyman, the Supremes, Style Council, the Shirells, Sade, Sandy Denny, Sleater-Kinney, Steely Dan, the Shangri-Las, Sujan Stevens, Sonic Youth, Status Quo, the Smiths, Sugababies, the Saturdays, Spear of Destiny, the Slits, Solange Knowles, Serg Gainsbourgh, Sigrid
    • T – Tom Robinson Band, Tallest Man on Earth, Talking Heads, Taylor Swift, Tina Turner Tchaikovsky, Tracy Chapman, Take That, T-Rex, Tegan and Sara
    • U – U2
    • V – Vince Clark, Vampire Weekend, Vivaldi, Velvet Underground
    • W – White Stripes, Wilko Johnson, Wolf Alice, Weezer, Whitney Houston, the Who
    • X – X-Ray Specs, XTC
    • Y – the Young Marble Giants, Yazoo, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs

On the Bus

Perry, Paul. On the Bus: the complete guide to the legendary trip of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and the birth of the counterculture. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1990.

Reason read: Allen Ginsberg’s birthday is in June. He was not a bus rider with the Merry Pranksters, but he was on the scene and subsequently interviewed for the book. Additionally, the famed bus trip started on June 14th, 1964.

Written in 1990, twenty-five years after the famed Kool-aid acid trips, Paul Perry pulls together interviews from the most influential mindbenders of the day: Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Ram Dass, and of course, Neal Cassady…to name a few. They look back on the time when a total of thirteen free spirits (fourteen, if you count the teenaged neighbor) called themselves the Merry Pranksters, boarded a psychedelically painted school bus, and hit the road in search of the ultimate trip. What started as acid parties in Neal Cassady’s San Francisco home soon became experimentations on the road in the converted bus they christened, “Furthur.” Traveling through Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, New York, and Calgary before heading home to Big Sur, California, they conducted their LSD tests, made new friends, connected with musicians like Wavy Gravy and Jerry Garcia, and rode the wave of the psychedelic revolution. By the time the Merry Pranksters got home they were never the same again.
What I am constantly wondering about is how much of the tapes and recordings of the trip survived?

Line to linger over, “Arvin Brown, who drank several [cupfuls] of the green stuff, tells me what he didn’t recover full consciousness for 24 hours” (29). Good times. Here are a few more, “Mercy and goodness were swallowed by cannons and bombs” (p 84), “I live in a world where there is no error, so that is what was meant to happen” (p 102). Last one, “Speed was the thing keeping him awake” (p 190).

Author fact: Paul Perry was once the editor of a running magazine. Cool.

Book trivia: my copy of On the Bus was so weird. There wasn’t any publishing information anywhere within the book. I could only find the last name of the author on the spine and I needed to look at the marc record from the library I borrow the book to find more information.

Playlist: “Love Portion Number Nine,” Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane, Wavy Gravy, Country Joe and the Fish, Rolling Stones, “Turn on Your Love Light,” and “The Flower.”

Nancy said: Pearl included On the Bus in a list of books she said “no discussion of books about the 1960s would be complete without” (More Book Lust p 179).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The 1960s in Fact and Fiction” (p 178).


January Jinxed

January is a month of great indecision. I can’t decide if I want to say more…
If there is one thing I can say for the January books, it is that most all of the fiction made mention of great music. Some musicians I knew, some I didn’t. Some songs I knew, some I didn’t. I had fun looking it all up though.

Fiction:

  • Sanctuary by Ken Bruen (EB & print). Music: Philip Fogarty, Anne Lardi, Rolling Stones, Snow Patrol, Johnny Duhan.
  • The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (EB & print).
  • Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland (EB & print). Music: Lucinda Williams, Slim Dusty, Nick Cave, The Warumpi Band, Ry Cooder.
  • The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett (EB & print). Music: Charles Tenet.
  • Graced Land by Laura Kalpakian (EB & print). Music: Elvis, Elvis, and more Elvis.
  • The Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel (print). Music: Leonard Cohen, Beethoven, and the fictional heavy metal band, Panda Bear Soup.
  • The Passage to India by E.M. Forster (EB & print).

Nonfiction:

  • Barcardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten (EB & print).

Series continuations:

  • Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset (EB & print).
  • The Persuader by Lee Child (EB & AB).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Fine, Thanks by Mary Dunnewold (EB). Music: Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Mose Allison, Talking Heads, Aaron Copeland (can you tell, Dunnewold really likes music!).

Graced Land

Kalpakian, Laura. Graced Land. New York: Grove Press, 1992.

Reason read: Elvis Presley was born in the month of January and if you couldn’t tell by the title of the book, Graced Land has an Elvis slant…big time. Read in his honor.

Emily Shaw, fresh out of college with a degree in social work, thinks she can heal the world Candy Striper style with her notes from her final Sociology class. Elvis has died five years prior and Emily’s first welfare client, Joyce Jackson of St. Elmo, California, is obsessed-obsessed-obsessed with the fallen idol. Joyce doesn’t need a Candy Striper. She needs to spread the work of Elvis. As she sits on her porch-turned-shrine to the king with her two daughters, Priscilla and Lisa Marie (of course), Joyce tells anyone who will listen how Elvis’s job was to sing, entertain, and look pretty, but his life’s work was to spread love, charity, and compassion. To make the world see Elvis as a humanitarian is a tall order considering many see his final years as a drug-addled, overweight has-been. Emily, instead of spending the prerequisite twenty minutes with Joyce on the first visit, ends up listening to Joyce and drinking the tea for three hours.
Later we learn how Joyce came to be such an Elvis fanatic. We leave Emily’s little life and follow Cilla’s childhood, describing how her mom was obsessed with Elvis since forever. I think the story would have held up better if Kalpakian had stuck with the story from Emily’s point of view, rather than brief first person narratives from Cilla. They didn’t serve much purpose other than to fill out Joyce’s personality as a mother. There is one critical scene that Cilla had to narrate, but I think Kalpakian could have found a different way.
But, back to the plot. Along the way, Emily learns Joyce is scamming the government by making money on the side. As a new social worker she needs to make a decision, turn Joyce in or give in to Elvis.

As an aside, I don’t know if Kalpakian did it on purpose, but a lot of the characters have alliterate names: Penny Pitzer, Marge Mason, Joyce Jackson…

Confessional: I had never heard of the Old Maid’s prayer before this book.

Author fact: Kalpakian also wrote Educating Waverly, also on my challenge list.

Book trivia: Real people and events from Kalpakian’s life make cameo appearances in Graced Land. Another interesting tidbit is that Graced Land was also published under the title Graceland.

Nancy said: Pearl said Graced Land is an example of a novelist using the facts of Elvis’s life to “explore themes of love, family, relationships, and even religious and socioeconomic issues” (Book Lust p 79).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Elvis On My Mind” (p 78).


Lou Reed: Notes from the Velvet Underground

Confessional: I had a really hard time reading about Lou Reed. I had always heard stories about his despicable character and was hoping most of it was a lot of bunk; I wanted it to be that Lou felt he had to keep up a persona cultivated by his involvement with Andy Warhol and the drug infested 1960s. I was wrong. He was a dick seemingly from birth.
There is no doubt Sounes is very sympathetic towards Reed and his less than admirable character. He made excuses for his bad behavior throughout the entire book, calling Reed a “provocateur extraordinaire” as early as the high school years. It is very obvious Lou loved to push buttons early on and did not care in the very least about the consequences. It was if he had a bone to pick with the entire world and spent his entire life trying to get even. He was a troublemaker. He was mean. He acted strange. He was often cranky. Drugs made him even more paranoid than he naturally was. He was a chauvinist and had a thing against women. He welcomed violence against women and had a habit of smashing, shoving, smacking, slapping them. At times Sounes seems conflicted. He states Reed clearly meant to project an image by being a prick, but in the very same sentence admits Reed was the person he projected (p 160).
Reed and his “provocateur extraordinaire” personality aside, Sounes’s exhausted research and attention to detail jumps out of every page of the biography. You can smell the grit of New York’s grungy streets and feel the beer soaked stickiness of the music scene. Warhole, Nico, Bowie, Iggy…they all live and breathe with vibrancy in Lou Reed. It’s as if Sounes bottled their souls and that alone makes the read worth it.


October Late

I am so frigging late with this it’s not even funny. Here are my excuses: I was home-home the first weekend in October. I am hosting an art show. I’m trying to hire a new librarian. And. And! And, I have been running. Only 13.25 miles so far but it’s a start, right? I’m thrilled to be putting one foot in front of the other. But, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • October Light by John Gardner – in honor of October being in the the title of the book and the fact that it takes place in Vermont, a place that is simply gorgeous in the fall.
  • Jamesland by Michelle Huneven – in honor of October being Mental Health Awareness month.
  • Long Day Monday by Peter Turnbull – in honor of police proceedurals.
  • The Axe by Sigrid Undset – in honor of the fact I needed a translated book by a woman for the Portland Public Library challenge. Weak, I know.
  • Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman – in honor of Lipman’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara – in memory of O’Hara dying in October.
  • An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair by Sharman Apt Russell – in honor of Magic Wings opening in October and the fact that Monhegan was inundated with monarch butterflies for the month of September. We even saw a few while we were home.

Series Continuation:

  • Running Blind by Lee Child – started in honor of New York becoming a state in July (where Lee Child lives). However, big confessional: I am reading this out of order. My own fault completely.

LibraryThing Early Review:

  • Notes from the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes

August Gusted

When I look back at August my first thought is what the hell happened? The month went by way too fast. Could the fact that I saw the Grateful Dead, Natalie Merchant (4xs), Trey Anastasio, Sirsy, and Aerosmith all in the same month have anything to do with that? Probably. It was a big month for traveling (Vermont, Connecticut, NYC) and for being alone while Kisa was in Charlotte, Roanoke, Erie, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Colorado. And. And, And! I got some running done! The treadmill was broken for twenty days but in the last eleven days I eked out 12.2 miles. Meh. It’s something. Speaking of something, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • African Queen by C.S. Forester
  • Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas
  • Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin
  • Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes

Nonfiction:

  • American Chica by Marie Arana
  • Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge
  • Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson

Series continuation:

  • Die Trying by Lee Child
  • Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov

Early Review cleanup:

  • Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm
  • Open Water by Mikael Rosen

Bear Comes Home

Zabor, Rafi. The Bear Comes Home. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979.

Reason read: May is Music month.

In a nutshell:The Bear Comes Home is a story about a talking, walking, pants-wearing, saxophone-playing bear. Wrap your brain around that for a moment and then consider this: the bear is an avid reader, talks philosophy and emotionally and physically loves a woman. I knew from the inside flap this book was going to be an interesting read, especially when I read, “a vexed, physically passionate and anatomically correct inter-species love affair with a beautiful woman named Iris.” Um. Okay. It’s the “anatomically correct” piece that really puts it into perspective. But! Trust me when I say this is a deep book. I mean deeeep. Zabor is a little long winded when it comes to subjects he is passionate about. There are pages and page about jazz music and the musicians who perfected it, but somehow the entire thing works. The Bear is a little too angsty but considering his circumstances, stuck in the human world, who could blame him?

As an aside, I have two Natalie connections to this book. This time “Dancing Bear” from Leave Your Sleep (of course) and the mention of the song “But Not For Me” which Natalie has covered.
Another aside, I loved, loved, loved the musical references. Mention of Prince’s Black Album made me swoon (been missing him a lot lately).

Line to like, “It had to do with the heaviness of obsession” (p 363).

Author fact: Zabor is a musician as well as an author. Obviously.

Book trivia: Bear Comes Home features a few real life musicians. Obviously. Another piece of trivia: it won the PEN Faulkner award.

Nancy said: Pearl said Bear Comes Home is a “slightly different take on music in fiction” (Book Lust p 164).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Music and Musicians” (p 164).


Spring Pages

I will be traveling for part of May so who knows how many books I’ll be able to read for this month. Here is the list I will attempt:

Fiction:

  • Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson – in honor of May being Wilson’s birth month.
  • Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs – in honor of Graphic Novel month being in May.
  • Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler – in honor of May is Museum Month.
  • Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor- in honor of May being Music Month.
  • Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – in honor of the first Thursday in May being Prayer Week.
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian – in honor of my father’s birth month. As a kid he read this book.
  • Five Children and It by E. Nesbit – in honor of May being Nesbit’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Farthest North by Fridtjof Nansen – in honor of Peary’s birth month being in May. From one explorer to another.

Series continuations:

  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in honor of Trollope’s birth month in April.